July 26, 2012 – I don’t eat out often, but when I do, I really pay
attention to the restaurant staff – mostly because I work for a
point-of-sale software company and naturally look at how restaurants use
their POS systems, but also because I expect great service when I am
spending my hard-earned money.
One night, I had the distinct displeasure of being seated while I waited for a take-out order, giving me the opportunity to study the operation for a while. What I saw was a clear waste of labour dollars, and a bad case of scheduling gone wrong.
In the kitchen were four young men; one was slinging pies, another was watching him, and two were standing around throwing a wet cloth at each other. At the counter, one 20-something frantically tried to take orders by herself with a lineup three deep waiting. In the dining room, three delivery drivers sat: one reading the paper while the other two sipped soda and talked baseball.
There were multiple problems in the restaurant that night, but the most obvious to me was the overstaffing. Wasted staff means wasted dollars, and the store owner could have cut costs significantly by knowing his numbers and scheduling more appropriately. Staffing can be one of the most difficult challenges in a restaurant, and one of the biggest drains on profits. But labour is a prime cost you can manage.
Sure, you can track costs manually. You know when your busy nights are. Maybe you have specific labour targets you manage. But unless you have all the numbers, scheduling is time consuming and too often grossly inaccurate. Some restaurant operators use spreadsheets that they update regularly, but without the help of specialized software, even the most experienced managers rely on their best guesses. A point-of-sale (POS) system that tracks detailed sales history can increase the accuracy of your scheduling and prep planning, and help you reduce costs significantly. While the savings are more modest for most, one restaurant operator told us that he recovered the cost of his POS system in 90 days in labour savings alone.
POS applications differ, but most provide some level of labour planning and scheduling capabilities. For instance, the SpeedLine Operations Plan includes a detailed sales forecast built dynamically based on historical sales. You can then review daily notes in the system and update the forecast to reflect your best knowledge of parties, local events, weather, or other things that may impact sales that day, or that week.
The finished forecast feeds sales projections into your labour and prep plans, based on forecasted sales for any daypart—breaking down the numbers to show you projected sales for dine-in at lunchtime or delivery at dinner. Reviewing a forecast like this can help you uncover patterns and gain a deeper insight into restaurant traffic trends and staffing needs.
Analyze and automate
That rich insight into historical sales and labour performance is the key to building an efficient schedule. Going back to the SpeedLine example, the employee scheduling system recommends ideal labour targets based on your predefined goals and historical and projected sales for the week. It even accounts for lunch and dinner peaks and forecasts by order type, so you can schedule the right number of drivers, servers, or cashiers to handle the workload. A convenient drag-and-drop scheduler lets you schedule and view staff by job or skill set. And with flexible sorting, quick text entry, and one-click links to employee jobs and days off, it’s easy to build a full week's schedule in minutes. This not only reduces labor costs, but also cuts administrative schedule-building time down every week. Why spend hours generating a guesswork schedule when you can quickly create a schedule that helps reduce labor costs using your POS?
Bad labour planning is easy to spot, but your guests don’t see it as poor scheduling – they see it as bad service. It not only costs you money in wasted labour dollars; it may cost you even more long term in lost business.
Carmen Vogel-McCombie is a marketing and trade show
coordinator at SpeedLine Solutions, Inc., and a contributing editor to On Point: The
Restaurant Technology Blog.